The Pipeline Master course from birth to heart cry

Gerard Kruisman Ir Gerard Kruisman, “Pipeliner” at heart, initiator of the Master course “Master of Pipeline Technology” (MPT) within the Dutch-Flemish Association (1993-2002) (BIG), former president of the Pipeliner Foundation (2002-2012) and honorary president of the board of the Pipeliner Foundation (2012-present), shown here as chairman of the examination committee.

The first major high pressure natural gas transport pipeline in The Netherlands

In 1958 drilling for gas was going on at Slochteren in the Northern part of The Netherlands. But after a number of exploratory drillings nothing was found. Further drilling was senseless, so management decided, because of the costs involved and negative results expected. At the end of the week all drilling activities should be stopped. However, the young drilling engineer in charge, knows that drilling a few hundred meters more a next ground layer would be reached. The crew voluntarily sacrificed the weekend and they found the largest gas field in Europe. The Netherlands is lucky. So as soon as possible the gas field should be exploited. In order to bring the natural gas to the industries in Holland (the western part of The Netherlands) through the eastern provinces with mostly a sandy subsoil (Pleistocene), and from there around the IJsselmeer to the west with quite a different bedrock (Holocene).

Gaining knowledge on pipeline technology in the Netherlands

However, at that time almost no local pipeline technological knowledge was present in the The Netherlands. Foreign engineering and contractors firms were hired to do the design and construction work. No other Pipeline Standards were available than the US based ANSI B31 codes. But if the construction has advanced to just the border between the provinces of Utrecht and South Holland, there is a polder drainage channel in the way: The Dubbele Wiericke. Originally together with the Single Wiericke, which is a good kilometer further away on the planned routing, they nowadays have a drainage function. However, they were built as part of a military defense work that dates back to 1588. Soft soils in polders that are a few meters below the chest level of the channel surrounding dikes. Soft clay and peat. The dikes were mainly built of peat with steep slopes and from a dike slide nearby we know this kind of dike has little inherent stability.

If the Nederlandse Gasunie, founded in 1963, requested to the Board of the polder to cross the Dubbele Wiericke channel and the American engineering firm Bechtel explains that they have at least twelve years of experience in crossing waterways, they got as an answer “But we have more than thousand years of experience with our dikes”. The polder Board consults its supervising authority, the Provincial Water Board of South Holland. With the result that the young engineer R.A.J. de Kock, (my classmate at Delft University) replied “Just let them prove that the pipeline will not bring our dikes at risk.”

This requested evidence led to a rather complicated construction with one measure piled upon the next. This ‘ditch’ crossing with a width of no more than 20 m, required an investment of over 5 million guilders (USD 2.5 million at that time). The negotiations took month after month to reach to an agreement on a safe crossing structure on which authorization could be granted. That led to the birth of Dutch knowledge in the field of pipeline technology. Not always without a fight, but very effective from a knowledge development point of view. “Show me that what you want is safe for our dikes” was the solid reply of my former classmate.

Knowledge stipulated in standards: the NEN 3650 Pipeline Code becomes a fact!

The knowledge on pipeline technology has been laid down in standards for pipelines in the Netherlands. At various places mainly young engineers started to rack their brains over the problem of analyzing the stress and strain behavior of (high pressure) pipelines in soft soils with subsidence. One thing soon became clear: If you have a high-pressure pipeline do not try to hold it with anchor blocks, but let it deform freely. Master the deformations by soil mechanical and structural measures. All the knowledge that was developed and approved by De Kock to which he himself also contributed significantly, was brought together in the Provincial Pipeline Code 1972 (PC’72). This Code continued to be adjusted until the NEN 3650 Pipeline Code was first published in 1992. The latter, moreover, is based on the PC’72 to a significant extent.

Those young engineers who had started the development of this technology in the 60s, began to get their retirement age in 1992 and it was predictable that as they left, a hole would fall into the knowledge on which the NEN 3650 is based. Moreover pipeline owners thought that having the standard now available this could be the end of the further development of pipeline knowledge. “After all the knowledge is housed therein and it is just a matter of work procedure, according to the recipes from a cookbook.”

The existing knowledge must be upgraded on the basis of experiences and new developments

In early 1992 the Board of the Dutch Pipeline Industry Guild (BIG) invited me to make a presentation to the members of the British Pipeline Guild (PIG) on pipeline standards development within the Netherlands. My presentation ended, based on the findings listed here, with the question “Quo Vadimus ‘, or ‘where are we heading for?” Will we become monkeys pressing NEN 3650 buttons? Or will we continue being engineers who think with insight about the safety of dikes and pipelines? Will we going to use the standard as a guideline and adapt to new developments and results of experiments? In the first case, “do what you’re told” (know-how based on rules and regulations); in the second case, “know what you’re doing (knowledge based on understanding and experience). And the key question: “Can you be a professional if you are not introduced to the profession by means of education and have not developed a passion to the trade?”

In 1993, the board of BIG came back to their question and asked me to put together a working group Pipeliner “in order to explore the future of our profession”. Soon, this group concluded that a profession cannot exist without a subsequent targeted education opportunity.

Education initiative for the “Pipeliner” profession

The working group “Pipeliner” worked out an initiative and gauged the need for training and education among the BIG members. This has led to the Pipeliner Foundation that was established in 2002 and

4D Coherence MatrixThere are no existing educational schemes that focus on pipeline transport, neither at technical universities, nor at professional universities. After identifying the width of the field, exploring an appropriate curriculum, and last but not least, the creation of support within the pipeline industry and beyond (Ministeries), as well as raking the necessary funds, the Pipeliner Foundation was finally founded in 2002 and the Pipeliner Master course began with the maiden date September 12, 2003. In total a preparation time of 10 years. With many ups and downs. People helping you in many ways because they believe in what you are trying to achieve and some who tell you that they will do everything to prevent the course to become a success. But end good all good, the opponents to the course are proud now as well on the achieved Master course.

Seat of the Pipeliner Master course

Meanwhile during the preparation period consulting with two professional universities had taken place to arrive at a seat for the course. It became the University of Tilburg, the commercial branch Avans+. The learning environment was chosen at the Reiskoffer resort at Bosschenhoofd near Breda, where the students can stay overnight as the contact hours are on Friday and Saturday. This format had been chosen to get an equal distribution of time spent on the course between employer and employee. But more important: two successive days with an evening (and bar) in between and a pleasant environment, fosters group dynamics.

Pipeliner, in heart and soul

Mesopotamian World Structure

Mesopotamian World Structure about 3000-2000 B.C.

In its initial logo The Foundation Pipe­liner used the epigraph “In succum et sangui­nem”, meaning “In heart and soul”.  We used this expression to include the entirety of affections someone may have to the profession and, because such dedication is of an emotional/­subconscious nature and thus not rationally understandable. Because of this mystic nature of the phenomenon it is said in Latin. As one of the students said at the end of the first part of the course: “It is as if this course awakened in me a pipeliner microbe” and another one said: “May be the feeling of being a professional pipeliner may have to do with the fact that pipelines are buried in the soil, a mysterious domain where nobody can see the results of our work”. And indeed we work in a domain with a negative notion where we dump our waste, bury our dead, situate criminals and where according to Dante the hell can be found. Already the Mesopotamians had such an idea about the underworld. And that area may be considered to be part of our pipeliner culture. And culture is what people brings together.


First cohort 2003

In line with the epigraph a Leitmotif was chosen from a book of the late professor Prof. Dr. Arnold Cornelis. In his book “The logic of feelings” he says: “As long as the technique is not culturally thought to embody the socialized acting and as part of the social control system, the transition cannot be made to the com­muni­­cative knowledge format from which technology can be socially mana­ged through culture“.

TP 2015

Latest cohort 2015

Who according to this statement (as a pipeline engineer) has internalized his professional knowledge and  experience can rightly call himself a Master (Pipeline Engineer). A matter of heart and soul.

A magnificent example

An magnificent example of an engineer who is fully dedicated to his profession can be found in the CEO of Allseas Engineering (an offshore contracting firm) who gave an interview for BNR radio on September the 11th,  2016, where he states he is both  highly interested in the technology of the profession (offshore technology) and goes for it and let common ideas about profit making not prevent him from taking risks, based on feelings rather than rational considerations. He listens to his colleagues and then takes his own decisions mostly against all odds. Reason for him to avoid to enter the stock market with his company (2500 employees), because he doesn’t want others to take decisions for his company. He builds the largest pipe lay ship and platform lifter (Pioneering Spirit) in the world (more than a billion Euro) and is not yet sure to get a return on investment. But in the meantime he is dreaming of an even larger ship that is capable lifting even larger offshore platforms. Truly a matter of heart and soul.

The BNR interview with Ir Edward Heerema (23 min) is attached but unfortunately in Dutch.

Another engineer’s dream

ZonnebloemTo let such future (Pipeline) engineers bloom, I initiated together with BIG the Master course. Not all students will grow sky-high, but we want to provide them all with sufficient knowledge and professional networks to enjoy their profession. A curious engineer with enough perseverance and support from his close inner circle, work environment and of course its employer, will become a sturdy plant that is able to “see” opportunities and to put them into action. They may lift our pipeline branch. As we show too little to society the benefits of underground pipeline transport. In the past, present and future.

Past, present and future of the Pipeliner Master course

Now in 2016, the 13th cohort will start with the section “Technical Pipeline Engineer” (one year in part-time) to get the TP diploma and the previous cohort starts with the section “General Pipeline Engineer) to achieve the AP diploma (as well one year in part-time) The third year is the individual Master year where a self-chosen thesis subject is to be worked out.

There seems to be a dependency between the average age of the students in a cohort and the degree of curiosity to look over the wall around their work. The younger the group the more they want to put the focus on the technique itself. The second year is more directed towards the interaction between pipeline transport and its application possibilities within society (o.a.t. underground freight transport). And in a more general sense regulations and in general understanding legislation and enforcement are part of the curriculum. And personal development is as well taken into account. The older the group the more interest there is to follow the second year as well.

MT 2003

The first masters Marieke Hollebek and John Driessen from the 2003 cohort

The third and final part of the course, the Master section, is often too much a burden for the majority of students. Although the value of this part is very well explained both by the Pipeliner foundation and the educational institute, most of them cannot see the importance of grasping a subject of the profession and enjoy the internalizing of the subject that will become part of their life. For that reason the interview with Ir Edward Heerema is attached. Another problem is that employers in general do not stimulate enough the personal development of an employee in this sense. There are many reasons not to enter the Master part; too busy, starting a family, no harmony with the spouse or work management, etc. And there is only one reason to take the “narrow road” instead of the “wide one”: dedication to your own profession and achieving “flow” from it.  But due to the younger age of the cohorts in time, this insight becomes less. And even half of those who start the Master phase end it prematurely, because they cannot find a subject to study. Incredible but true; if you are curious and look “over the wall” of your daily work, you will find such subjects at least one per day.

Lyceum of Aristotle

Lyceum of Aristotle at Athens

And remember knowledge and wisdom transfer on one hand and commercialism and so-called efficiency in education on the other are at odds with each other. It is one of the tasks of the foundation and thus of the new board to keep the original setup of the Master course upright and foster further development to a truly master environment.  If it is only a tiny bit of the lyceum of Aristotle with wise men teaching wisdom to their students, the Pipeliner Master course reaches its goal.

Let this be my wish and cry of the heart for the future of the Master of Pipeline Technology course.